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Reading Between the Headlines

17 December 2015

From author Jen Talty via Write on the River:

Barnes & Nobles current financial situation is something to be concerned about in publishing, even for those who earn the majority of their income from eBooks. This situation is not Indie VS Trad or eBook VS Print. This is an industry wide situation that affects all of us, but in different ways. So as business people in the publishing industry we need to plan for what our business will look like in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, but just as important: what does that mean for YOUR career.

Nook is costing B&N money, which is bringing down any profit they might earn to try to turn their bottom line around. They spun off their college bookstore unit. They’ve had 4 CEO’s in five years. Stocks are in the red. Not looking too good for Barnes & Noble right now. Yet I was in a quite large B&N a couple of weeks ago with my son where we spent over 100$ on books. Probably the first purchase I made in that store both physical and on-line in 3 years. Not because I’m not a fan, but because I don’t like to shop. I’m also an early adopter of technology, so I’ve been reading eBooks since before the Kindle came out on a Sony eReader. I guess that’s the Betamax of eReaders?

. . . .

So what is an author to do? Our suggestion? First, take the emotion out of it and remember this is your livelihood. Next, understand what you control and what you don’t control. We don’t control what is happening to B&N. We do control our own business strategy. With that in mind what happens to you as an author if Nook goes away or if B&N goes under? Will your publisher be able to get you racked in WalMart? Costco? Target? Who, by the way, all have less shelf space dedicated to books. The only books I see there are those of authors who have recently passed or those on the top 20 of the New York Times and a couple of lines from Harlequin (but not all of them). My Target just expanded to carry groceries (big mistake if you ask me since we’re in the heartland of Wegmans) but in doing so, they took space from other departments because they didn’t expand their square footage. Wegmans used to have entire half row dedicated to books. Now it’s half that size.

. . . .

Barnes and Noble is being crippled in a way by its own uniqueness and its inability to adapt. B&N helped put many a bookstore out of business, but it wasn’t the only entity that did that. Changes in technology. Changes in consumer buying habits. They all helped. Just like Blockbuster knocked out all my local small video rentals. Then Netflix knocked them out, now we have a wide variety of digital downloads and streaming. Welcome to the changing world of technology.

Link to the rest at Write on the River and thanks to Nan and others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Jen Talty’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.


22 Comments to “Reading Between the Headlines”

  1. OT: Yay, Wegmans!
    (A company btw which is not complaining and is ranked #7 in the Fortune 500 top companies to work for.)

  2. Uniqueness could mean you are visionary…
    …or it could mean you zigged and the market zagged.

    When you find yourself all alone on the tree limb it might be a good time to wonder why nobody else is out there. And whether that branch is about to break.

  3. This ‘story’ reads like an emotion appeal to the reader to morn the way B&N is dying by its own hand, yet they want us to ‘take emotion out of it’ — mixed signals guys …

    “So what is an author to do? Our suggestion? First, take the emotion out of it and remember this is your livelihood.”

    Okay, taking ’emotion out of it’ as someone who doesn’t have a B&N in reasonable driving range, I have no horse in this race — let them die.

    As they only seem to be interested in cultured nurtured things from trad-pub, whose contracts (if ever offered) I won’t be signing — let them die.

  4. Smart Debut Author

    Think about it this way:

    When B&N goes under (In 18 months max), a lot of those B&N customers will instead start shopping online. Where indie books compete on a level playing field with Big Five books. Where small publishers who can’t afford to do huge front-table coop spending also have a fair shot.

    Unlike most indies, I’ve sold hundreds of books off B&N shelves. And even so, guess what?

    B&N can’t go out of business fast enough to suit me. 🙂

    • What I want to know is what will the BPHs do when B&N hits the wall?
      Will they chip in to prop it up or kick it over the cliff like they did with Borders?

      • They had B&N when Borders sank. Is there anything for them cling to after B&N sinks?

        Unless they can all but ‘give’ their books to B&N without Amazon getting the same deal, Amazon will continue the be the ‘go to for less cost and better selection’ bookstore. (and even if they could, I see it slowing but not saving them in the end …)

      • Books A Million has ~225 stores. I don’t know anything about them.

        I was in a B. Dalton size store of theirs in Philly’s Market Street mall, but it’s closed because that part of the mall is being renovated. BaM definitely has more books per square foot of store than B&N.

      • Not sure how Big Publishers even *could* prop up B&N — B&N is just not a very profitable account for them.

        They could try to work out a new model with B&N that doesn’t mean 35%-45% hardcover returns (which end up coming right out of the Publishers’ bottom line). That could reduce wholesale costs to B&N and give B&N a fatter margin — but then the whole stack-a-bunch-of-copies-high-on-the-front-table-then-ship-half-of-em-back megabestseller-manufacturing co-op strategy falls by the wayside… and that’s Big Publishing’s lifeblood.

        Books-A-Million is no plan B replacement for Big Pub, either — BAM is tiny relative to B&N — maybe a tenth of B&N’s sales, if you go by their 2014 annual reports ($400M versus $4B). And AFAIK, BAM is completely absent on the reader-heavy West Coast.

        This is going to end only one way.

        And it’s all good news for authors.

  5. They have to prop it up, which they could have done with borders, and I suspect they sorely regret not doing it for Borders.

  6. …a Sony eReader. I guess that’s the Betamax of eReaders?

    More like the hand-cranked super-8 movie projector of e-readers. I had a job writing content for the Sony Reader and got a look at a pre-release model. I was quite vocal about how whoever had designed it designed a gadget rather than an electronic book. It died like the dog it was.

    No-one made an e-reader that looked like a book or had the qualities of a book until the ill-fated Microsoft Reader, which I also ended up working for at the content end. Microsoft threw Reader under the bus with extreme prejudice, and we had to wait for the Kindle to see anything that could call itself an e-book reader with a straight face.

  7. Gee, what if someone were to test a new kind of bookstore – say in Seattle – and work with it to get the bugs out… en route to a rollout when the market timing is just right, as when a major competitor proves itself simply unable to perform and wrongly positioned in even the best of markets.?

    Then what if that certain someone were to be selective and move in measured phases into only the best of the best situations, not taking necessarily the same commercial spaces, but appropriate spaces, well-sized and located in upscale and/or literate marketplaces for optimal performance?

    I do wonder but I not know.

  8. With that in mind what happens to you as an author if Nook goes away or if B&N goes under?

    Upward pressure on independent sales.

    Will your publisher be able to get you racked in WalMart? Costco? Target?

    No. I’m the publisher.

    • With that in mind what happens to you as an author if Nook goes away or if B&N goes under?

      I’ll sell more of my books to former Nook & B&N customers. 😀

      Will your publisher be able to get you racked in WalMart? Costco? Target?

      Indie author Jamie McGuire did it on her own. Sell enough books and you can, too.

      And by the way, grandma, what’s a “publisher”? 😀

      • A ‘publisher’, my wee poppet, is a human with delusions of being George Jetson. The idea is that your entire job will be done by a machine, and all you have to do is sit in a swivel chair and press the button, and you get paid.

        In reality, this never happens. Either the customer gets to press the button (and get his order whenever he likes), or the machine is redesigned to work automatically without any buttons. And there’s poor mad George sitting in the gutter, making vroom-vroom sounds to himself because he thinks he not only has a job, but a flying car, too.

        H. Smiggy McStudge

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